Do you know when you’re eating food from GM crops – and do you try to avoid it? If so, you may be unhappy to hear that the EU is relaxing its rules on the import of GM in animal feed…
I’ve never worried much about genetically modified (GM) food. When I was at uni and Safeway started selling GM tomato puree I was more concerned about how much it cost than what was in it.
But when I put my concerned consumer hat on, I think GM in the food chain should come down to three key things: is it safe; do we know we’re eating it; and can we make informed choices about it?
Relaxed rules on GM
I read the other week that the EU is relaxing its rules on the import of non-approved GM in animal feed. This will allow up to 0.1% of non-approved seed in imports.
That doesn’t sound like much, but consider that last year the EU imported 33 million tonnes of approved GM soy for animal feed – that means 0.1% is 33,000 tonnes – which is quite a lot.
GM crops have been grown on over a billion hectares worldwide since 1996. That’s bigger than China or the US! And the Daily Telegraph found that every UK supermarket stocks dairy and meat from animals fed GM soy.
GM polarises people
So, there’s no getting away from GM, but I find the issue tends to polarise people, and ‘never the twain shall meet’.
The way I see it, the ‘Yes’ people advocate the necessity of GM food to deal with an ever-increasing global food crisis. Rising population, severe weather conditions and political instability all have an impact and the ‘Yes’ camp believes GM could be the saviour of starvation.
How? By modifying crops to grow in challenging conditions, be more resistant to pests and disease, or even to increase their nutritional value.
But then there are the ‘No’s’. They focus on the dangers to us and the environment. They talk about safety risks, environmental impact and the limited evidence of how GM can deal with a global food crisis.
What’s on the label?
Often, I don’t even know if I’m eating GM food. I should, because since 2004 it’s been law that food from a GM source must be labelled (but not if they’re produced with GM technology or animals fed with GM feed). I guess I don’t feel worried about it so I’m just not looking for them anymore.
And here’s the rub. GM could be a good thing, or it could be bad. But it is here so we need to deal with it. At Which? we’ve been – and will continue – putting pressure on government to ensure it is safe, both for us and for the environment.
We also want labelling in place so people can make their own choice about whether they want to eat it or not. Plus, we’re calling for safeguards to ensure non-GM crops are not contaminated by GM – otherwise choosing just becomes Hobson’s choice.
I’m still not entirely sure what I think about GM products (though the ‘No’ camp does seem to have much more fun pictures – just google Frankenfoods). What about you – which camp are you in?